Naturalistic Ethics: A Logical Positivistic Approach

Sibel Oktar


Logical positivists accept Wittgenstein’s view on the inexpressibility of ethics and
construct their ethical views in line with their verification method. When you accept
the idea that ethical judgements do not refer to matters of fact, you could either
hold that they express nothing, i.e., they are nonsense or by a “Humean twist” state
that they are expressions of sentiments, i.e., they express emotions. Or, you could
pass over the problem in silence, as Wittgenstein seems to have done. I will be
dealing with the idea of reductionism in ethics, mostly addressing Moritz Schlick’s
arguments. Schlick with a naturalistic view on ethics says that if we cannot reduce
‘good’ to a natural object we cannot express it. I think, although Schlick and
Wittgenstein draw the same conclusion their conception of ethics is incompatible. For
Wittgenstein ethics is absolute whereas Schlick only deals with the relative sense of


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; ethics; inexpressibility; reductionism; logical positivism

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